Tai Chi, like all other disciplines of study (including non-martial arts studies), evolve over time. It is important to understand the phases of Tai Chi so we don't get to hung up on any one phase in our practice. The key is to keep an open mind so we are open to a deeper learning.
Here is how I see the Tai Chi phases, or building blocks, work and evolve.
Each individual will spend a different amount time on different phases, depending on their understanding, their ability to learn new things and dedication to practice.
- The form. The form is the series of movements that make up our set. This is the beginning of your Tai Chi practice. how we move properly, weighted and balanced. (Better balance provides fall prevention)
- Good dan tien breathing. We breath through the dan tien to create relaxation and energy flow through the body. (This lets us de-stress and lowers blood pressure.)
- Combine dan tien breathing with the form. This allows us to learn to move in a relaxed and balanced state of mind, or calm mindfulness.
- Apply the movements to self-defense scenarios. This adds more flow to the movements when it's attached to context. At this point, many practitioners begin to make the form their own — and we learn how to defend ourselves).
- Chi development. Make sure chi development takes place all through the study. When the form starts to flow and feel relaxed, chi flow increases and the form evolves once again. Now the form takes on a living, breathing feel as we expand and contract the chi energy. (Other health benefits include healthy organs).
- Revisit the self-defense aspect. This happens once the chi energy becomes more part of the form. Instead of just moving with the dan tien leading. We perform the self-defense movements with the expanding and contracting of energy. (Learn to manipulate opponents energy: "Move 1,000 pounds with four ounces.")
- Put your mind and body in harmony. It is imperative if you wish to perform Tai Chi skillfully — total relaxation. Mind and body need to be in harmony. This relaxation of mind and body can be very spiritual for some people. Spirituality brings better understanding of self, which in turn brings better relationships with others.